Four Words That Will Change Your Life
At six o’clock the apocalypse will begin.
At least, in my house it will. The end of the world happens every night around that time.
Steam rises from the stove like huffing manholes. Water boils, veggies steam, and some sort of meat sizzles on a skillet. My youngest must know the end of the world is at hand, for she clutches my pants in her tiny fists and wails full force. My toddler screams from the living room as though one of her bones has just shattered. I wave away the rising foam in the pot of boiling water, pick up the crying infant, and sprint to my toddler.
“Are you all right??” I ask, checking her once over for any life threatening injuries.
“I need help putting the battery cover back on the remote control. It’s not working, see?” She shows me how the plastic cover won’t latch anymore—which has been the case since she broke it some number of apocalypses ago.
“Marie, I can’t help you with that right now. Go find a book. Or color. Or do a puzzle…” The sentence follows me back into the kitchen where the pots and pans are smoking. Something smells burned.
I set the infant back on the ground to keep her away from all the things that could burn her face off. And, of course, she cries and clutches my clothes again.
My husband typically comes home at the crescendo of craziness—just a few minutes after I’ve vehemently asked myself, “Where the heck is he?!” and just a few moments before I totally lose my mind.
In the interim, I man the stove until I hear the garage door open.
When that sweet, sweet sound of grinding metal begins, I scoop up the screaming baby and rush out to dump her in my husband’s arms. On a good day, I might grunt. On a great day, I may even mutter something eloquent like, “Here” or “Take her.”
Then I get back to salvaging. Or “cooking”, as I’ve heard people call it.
When we finally sit down at the table, Marie’s excitement bubbles out of her mouth. “Hi Dad, I love you!”
The words come out effortlessly, but as I try to convince my one-year-old to eat her green beans, I realize I haven’t even said hello to my husband. Let alone “I love you.”
How did I forget to greet my best friend and remind him he’s loved?
“Hi,” I say, and sigh with relief. Instantly, I shed ten pounds of anxiety. “I love you.”
My husband smiles. “Hi, dear! I love you, too.”
Something strange happens during the next apocalypse: It’s still the same volume and level of distress, but it isn’t quite as catastrophic.
Instead of fuming over my husband’s whereabouts, I delight that his next “whereabout” is the same as mine. That I get to see my greatest ally.
Not just look at him. Not just look at all the things he can do for me. But truly see him as the wonderful person I married.
I had missed that over what seemed like weeks and months of the Armageddon.
When the garage door opens now, it sounds like fidelity. And love. The fidelity and love of a husband who comes home to his wife and children every evening. Maybe even after experiencing an apocalypse of his own, all by himself.
I practice my line in my head, hoping I don’t jumble my words as I have the tendency to do. But when he strides through the door armed with a smile and our giddy two-year-old, my words come out effortlessly.
“Hi. I love you.”
Four simple words. And yet, so hard to master.
But it’s in that instant that we can finally see each other through the smoke. We know and understand one another. We notice the chaos, but we choose to love.
And that gives us the strength to face another Armageddon.
Again and again. Until death do us part.